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Addressing Bias in Healthcare: The Need for Cultural Competency and Patient Advocacy

In a recent conversation with Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, the topic of bias in healthcare emerged as a significant concern. Reynolds-Jackson shared her personal experience of encountering bias during a critical moment in her healthcare journey. Her story sheds light on the importance of cultural competency, patient advocacy, and the need for legislation to address these issues, resulting in her introduction of New Jersey’s Assembly Bill A-5516, requiring certain healthcare professionals to undergo bias training. This discussion explores the impact of bias in healthcare and the potential solutions to close disparities in patient outcomes.

A Missed Opportunity

Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson’s story began when she required a change in her medication for Crohn’s disease, a condition she had managed for over two decades. To make the treatment process more convenient, she opted for at-home infusions. However, a nurse from the nursing agency canceled the appointment after seeing landscapers in Reynolds-Jackson’s yard and felt uncomfortable. This incident highlights how bias and misconceptions can lead to missed opportunities for patient care and disrupt healthcare services.

The Ripple Effect of Bias

Reynolds-Jackson’s experience extends beyond her personal inconvenience. It raises concerns about the broader implications of bias in healthcare. The incident made her reflect on the countless individuals living in senior residences, hospitals, or homes with disabilities who may be deprived of services due to fear or lack of cultural understanding. The lack of proper care and advocacy for those receiving at-home services raises questions about who these individuals can turn to for support and how organizations can improve their programs and policies.

The Importance of Cultural Competency

Cultural competency plays a pivotal role in addressing bias in healthcare. It involves understanding and respecting diverse cultural backgrounds, dietary needs, and beliefs. By embracing cultural differences, healthcare providers can foster open lines of communication, establish trust, and deliver personalized care. Training in cultural competency can equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to recognize their own biases and provide culturally sensitive care.

Patient Advocacy and Legislation

Patient advocacy is another crucial aspect of addressing bias and disparities in healthcare. While Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson had the necessary knowledge and resources to advocate for herself, many patients lack this information. Legislation, such as New Jersey’s Assembly Bill A-5516, which requires bias training for healthcare professionals providing home services, can help bridge this gap. It not only empowers patients to advocate for themselves but also encourages organizations to improve their services and policies.

Closing Disparities in Patient Outcomes

By promoting cultural competency, patient advocacy, and legislation, we can work toward closing disparities in patient outcomes. These measures enable healthcare providers to provide more effective and personalized care, taking into account patients’ cultural backgrounds, preferences, and unique needs. Furthermore, embracing diversity and creating an inclusive healthcare environment can lead to improved patient satisfaction, better health outcomes, and a more equitable healthcare system.


Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson’s personal experience serves as a catalyst for change in the healthcare industry. It highlights the need for cultural competency, patient advocacy, and legislation to address bias and disparities in patient care. By promoting these values, healthcare providers can create an inclusive and culturally sensitive environment that prioritizes patient needs. Closing the gap in healthcare disparities requires a collective effort from healthcare professionals, organizations, and legislators to ensure that every patient receives the care they deserve.